Meet a Progressive: Professional Good Troublemaker Kadida Kenner
"There are two things I know for certain; if we don't defend our voting rights, and advocate for fair and just courts, all other progressive social change issues we care about are moot issues."
Kadida Kenner is the founding executive director of the New Pennsylvania Project, a voting rights organization modeled after the successful New Georgia Project founded by Stacey Abrams in 2014. The New Pennsylvania Project civically engages, registers, mobilizes and empowers often-ignored constituents, especially the youth, and communities of color in rural, urban, and suburban Pennsylvania to change and expand the electorate in the Commonwealth. Kadida is a tireless advocate for social and economic justice issues and is motivated to empower and excite the electorate to enthusiastically vote in every election—all the way down the entire ballot. In addition to working on voting rights, Kadida is also co-chair of Why Courts Matter - Pennsylvania, an advocacy campaign seeking to protect the independence of our state and federal courts, and educate the electorate about their importance. The Temple University graduate resides in the Philly burbs and counts civil rights organizing icon, and Pennsylvania native Bayard Rustin as her hero.
What inspired you to start working for progressive social change?
My Black life requires it. I've been involved in social change campaigns since being called the "N word" on the playground in the 2nd grade by someone I thought was my friend. Even at 7 years old, you know when something doesn't sit right in your soul. But as an adult, I have continuously engaged in actions to bring about change. From casting my first ballot at 18-years-old to working on mayoral and presidential campaigns. But the major catalyst came in 2016 following the election of Donald Trump. The outcome forced me out of work I absolutely loved, and racked up student loan debt to do, and into this work as a professional - as a professional Good Troublemaker.
There are two things I know for certain; if we don't defend our voting rights, and advocate for fair and just courts, all other progressive social change issues we care about are moot issues.
What do you identify as the top issues progressives must confront statewide, nationally and globally?
Statewide and nationally, we must focus on our right to vote and an easier access to the ballot and polls. Our democracy is in peril when our voting rights are at stake. If we don't end the filibuster and pass federal legislation to combat the wicked attempts by state legislatures to gerrymander and usurp power away from the people, all of our top progressive issues go nowhere. You can't squeeze blood out of a stone and you can't move GOP-led legislatures to do the right thing by their constituents when it counts the most.
READ: Join the Civil Rights movement of 2021 and beyond
Globally, we must eradicate white supremacy. Period. It's inescapable and it impacts all of society, even white folks.
What types of organizing and projects are you working on right now?
As the executive director of one of the newest voting rights organizations in the Commonwealth, I've got my hands full working on bringing more than 1.1 million disenfranchised citizens back into the electorate. It is an institutional failure to have so many Pennsylvanians disengaged from the political process. So we're working on engaging often ignored constituents and mobilizing folks to the polls on a consistent basis, and in numbers that require attention. It's the only way to get our needs met - particularly for communities of color and the youth.
Holding elected officials accountable to all of their constituents, even the ones who didn't vote for them, or vote at all is paramount. One of those ways to hold our elected officials accountable for their proposed policies and their votes is to ensure they see and hear from us on a regular and consistent basis.
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How can folks get engaged and involved?
Casting our ballots twice a year is the bare minimum. We need energized constituents to volunteer their time and/or money to the cause. We need folks who can knock doors in urban areas across the Commonwealth, make calls into the suburbs and write Op-eds in rural papers. And unfortunately, it takes enlightened money from the left to beat out the dark dollars from the right.
I encourage everyone to visit the New Pennsylvania Project's website to get involved. Folks can access the department of state to register to vote, volunteer their time by completing a volunteer intake form or make a small recurring donation that will sustain this work for the long haul. This is a marathon and not a sprint.
Which journalists, writers, podcasts, and publications do you turn to for information and inspiration?
I'm old school—not only in my choice of music but in my preferred journalists. I turn to Ida B. Wells for inspiration. Anyone born enslaved on a Mississippi plantation, who can go on to publish her own news stories about post reconstruction brutality of Black lives, at a publishing house she owned, is worthy of admiration.
In the current era, I salute journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones for her groundbreaking initiative, the 1619 Project. Teaching the truth, even when it hurts, and when you are personally at risk, honors our ancestors' resilience. It's only fitting that her Twitter handle is "Ida Bae Wells."
Meet Other Progressives
Repairing the World with Eve Gutman
From Punk Rock to Podcasting with Kevin Mahoney
Think Globally, Act Locally with Hanna Dahlström
The Con OH Show's Connor OHanlon
Defending Democracy with Rotimi Adeoye
Activism You Can Dance to with Bonnie Chang
Creating A Nuclear Weapon Free World with Ira Helfand
Sue-Ann DiVito Fights for Immigrants’ Rights in Bucks County
Bucks County Activist Kierstyn Zolfo Is Relentless
Bucks County's Eric Miller and the Daily Bern
Peace and Nonviolence with Rev. John Dear
Anti-Racism Organizing in Bucks County with Kevin E. Leven
Barbara Simmons and Her Commitment to Peace
Mykal-Michele Longino and Her Peace Work with Gen Z
Thanks for reading! I look forward to your feedback and suggestions. And most importantly, keep organizing!